New Site and Feeling All Right!

Hey, Hey everyone, hope you are enjoying the new site. There are a lot of things that need tweaking still, but just owning my domain makes me feel like I am moving forward. While moving things around I remembered that the original intent of my blog was to tie my writing into my experiences with running, well I haven't been doing that. Still running though and my goal for 2014 is, in fact, still 500 miles.  I will do a full update soon, but for now here is the short story I submitted for another 24 hour writing contest.

Here was the prompt: 

He walked among the market stalls, pretending to ignore the whispering and giggling women. His relaxed demeanor, handsome features, and ready smile meant no female in the town missed his weekly sermons and the church's coffers were overflowing of late.
Feeling a touch on his sleeve, he turned and his smile disappeared. Looking first left and right, he angrily spat, "I told you to never speak to me again!"

She blinked, her long lashes brushing her cheeks, and said, "But, I need to talk to you." Leaning closer, she paused, and lowered her voice. "You see, I'm..."

And what I wrote: 

Isaiah 34:14

Isobel watched him from behind the fresh fruit stand, heart racing and temper flaring. With his arrival into town earlier that year, the new priest promised to bring wealth to the city and homes for the destitute. She had always been inclined to dislike any person that took favor so easy. The congregation grew weekly, as did the whispers.

Albeit, he was handsome, but he preened at his reflection in the polished silver of a nearby shop. His vanity made anger burn at her neck, until she was distracted by a beautiful woman trailing slightly behind him. The stranger’s almond eyes were a slash of black against ivory flesh, and though streaked with gray, her hair flowed like spilled ink over her shoulders. Likely, she was another wealthy widow hoping to confess her sins in the confines of his elaborately furnished office.

The young cleric paled when the woman made herself known. The crowds of the bazaar helped keep Isobel hidden, but their loud conversations masked whatever harsh exchange occurred between the man and his, presumably, scorned lover.

Isobel crept closer.

“You see, I’m here to collect my debt.” The woman’s words were melodic and threatening.

A sheen of sweat covered his normally confident face, “There is only so much I can do without gathering unwanted attention.”

He glanced over his shoulders and Isobel shrank back behind the protective awning, out of his line of sight. She knew that man had been up to no good from the moment he blew into town and swept the women off their feet. When Isobel had aired her worries to her sisters, they scoffed at her immaturity and said that she would understand when she was older. But she was not so naive to think they met up for prayer when they snuck out in the middle of the night.

“That is not good enough.” The beautiful woman reached a hand up and brushed his cheek, only a slight tremble gave his sins away.

“As you wish. Follow me,” he relented.

The dubious couple began walking and Isobel followed in the shadows like a church mouse. The sun had set and she struggled to keep up, stumbling upon deep ruts in the dirt. They left the town square, passed humble shacks, and crossed a recently plowed field, until they entered the forest.

After walking straight uphill for twenty minutes, Isobel was ready to give up. The moon glowed fat and orange for the harvest, as if to help light her steps in dark of night, but she wouldn’t be able to keep the pace much longer.

As fear began to seep in with the autumn chill, a light flickered to life up ahead. She walked until she reached a clearing where the flames of a fire licked the sky. Distracted by curiosity, she forgot about the priest until he grabbed her and cupped her mouth, muffling her screams.

“I’ve got her.” He said calmly, as he dragged Isobel kicking and screaming towards the fire. “Thought she was so sneaky. Think you could catch us in the act, did you little bird?”

Isobel’s eyes rolled like a feral horse as she searched for help, praying he wasn’t corrupt enough to hurt a young girl. As naked as a babe, the woman stood waiting for him in front of the flames that blazed twice her height. Isobel bit the priest’s hand and stomped his foot, forcing him to release her. He cursed the Lord’s name in vain.

“Leave her be,” the woman said in a flat tone, “she’ll learn the ways soon enough.”

The heat reflected in his eyes as he moved toward the woman, and his hands fumbled with buttons. Isobel flushed as he his mouth kissed all over the woman’s body. She turned away.

At first she thought it was a trick of the shadows, but soon it was clear they were not alone. Dozens of women stepped from the trees that circled the couple. Each was dressed in a long cloak that hid their face, but did nothing to cover the swell of their body, ripe with the fruit of womb.

Isobel returned her attention to the lovers, wondering if she should warn them, but there was no need. The beautiful woman was fully aware of the company. She grabbed a handful of the man’s hair as he knelt in front of her, and pulled his head back, forcing him to look into her eyes.

“Your time here has come to an end. You have served your purpose, and our town will continue to prosper.” The woman held an arm out to gesture to the surrounding crowd. “We thank you for your sacrifice.”

A knife Isobel had not seen was brandished, and in one swift movement, drawn across his neck. His body crumpled forward and twisted so his face was directed at Isobel. 

The blood pulsed out from the garish wound, soaking the earth. Isobel stared into eyes frozen wide with shock.

A smile spread across her face, as all the women cried out to the night. The men never did last long in their town.  

The Warmth

Happy Fall! The smell of chile roasting hangs in the air, the breeze blows cooler, and even though the day still burns hot, fall has arrived here in the sunny Southwest.

In honor, here is my submission for WritersWeekly.com’s 24-hour Short Story contest, Fall 2013.

I don’t think it is as strong as my submission for the summer context, but I’m happy to chalk it up to experience.

Enjoy.

 

The Warmth

 

She would have opened her eyes immediately, if not for the sand caked on her face. It crusted in the corners of her eyes, her nose and mouth, collecting like flies to rotting flesh. Her hand reached out for someone who wasn’t there.

The shock of being alive energized her as she wheezed a giant breath in. She propped herself onto shaking arms as great, rattling coughs heaved through her body. Her lips were as cracked and flaking as the desert floor surrounding her. Her clothes were torn and stained brown, but she was alive. Running her hands through her matted brown curls, she pushed her malnourished body to stand.

Her sister’s absence left her half empty.

Endless miles of heat shimmered off the hard clay ground, blurring on the horizon like waves so she couldn’t tell where land ended and sky began. She turned in a circle, noticing the few cacti and bushes cast almost no shadow. She would have many hours of daylight for her journey home. Willing her legs, she took one labored step after another until her body was finally able to move like it did before. Grains of sand filled her shoes and rubbed in between her toes as she trudged.

Hunger ripped apart her belly. The exposed areas of her flesh were red and angry from the relentless sun. There was not even a wisp of white in the blue, not even a hint of a breeze. A slight smile lifted her lips, they would be so happy to see her.

She just needed to get higher.

A shuffling to her left grabbed her attention. An ink black scorpion froze when her eyes spotted it only a few feet away. Its barbed tail poised in the air, while vicious pinchers clicked loudly in the midday heat. She blinked at it, sparing no energy to be alarmed, it scurried away into the shelter of a pale green sagebrush plant.

The sun was much lower on the horizon by the time rocks and pines replaced the sand and brush. The air already warned of dropping temperatures. It would not be long until the cool relief plunged into unbearable chills. It mattered little what happened to her body, so long as she could reach the cabin. The image of her sister’s smile warmed her enough. From their petite frames and pale skin, to their deeply slanted eyes, her sister was almost identical, only two years younger. Even their birthmarks were reflections of the other when they stood cheek to cheek.

The forest grew dense and a branch reached out to snag her. As she unhooked her shirt, she noticed a small white scar on her side in the exact spot. Chills shook her body as she climbed, but she kept moving. The setting sun cast a hauntingly beautiful glow through the leaves of changing trees. Her body moved slower than expected so that too soon even the sun was gone and only faint moonlight gleamed a hint of the ground ahead of her. She could be blind-folded and still find a way back to her family.

The relief of seeing the cabin’s weak halo of light was so intense she fell to her knees. A groan must have escaped her lips, because shortly after, her sister’s sweet trill rang through the air, calling for their mother.

A moment of panic enveloped her until she saw her sister run out to her with open arms, her white gown streaked after like a flash of wings. Tiny arms wrapped around her neck and she sobbed into her sister’s hair surprised there were any tears left to cry.

A disturbing twinge of deja vu pulled at the back of her mind in warning. She had been so anxious to be home, so eager to get back to her sister, she thought of little else on that day’s journey, but now that she was here harsh memories came flooding back.

She moved to get away, but what was once a comforting embrace from her sister was now a stiff arm to hold her in place.

In the doorway her mother’s silhouette held tense, with a long, thin object in her hand.

“Back so soon?” She asked with flat sarcasm.

Unable to find her own voice she stared blankly at her mother, who’s agitation was visible even through the darkness. The woman moved out of the doorway and the blade of an ax glinted in the porch-light.

“Your father’s sin.” Her mother muttered mostly to herself. Her eyes were wide and white, rolling like a threatened horse and her once brown curls twisted wild and silver.

The girl looked up into the eyes she had longed to see, but her sister avoided her gaze.

“Maybe not this time momma? Not right away?” The younger girl’s pleas disappeared into the night.

“Hold her steady now.” Her mother stood undeterred as the blade of the ax sliced through the air.

# # #

She reached out, still half asleep, hoping she’d find her there. Her hands found only scorched earth. She stood up brushing sand off her crusted, bloodied clothes. The heat was unbearable, though comforting in an unsettling way. She glanced to the nearby mountain range with a sense of purpose.

Her heart ached with loneliness as she started her long journey home.

Current Song: "The Warmth" by incubus

On the Radio

Before I start this week’s blog I have to obnoxiously brag about a mini victory - yeah I’m one of those writers now. I didn’t win anything per se (though in my mind it is a huge win) but I did get an honorable mention in the Writer’s Weekly 24-hour short story contest. http://www.writersweekly.com/contest/summer13winners.html

I know it is not much in the grand scheme of things but it was just the little kick in the butt I needed. So Yay!

This is a short story that popped into my head while browsing through Reddit and hearing this little clip I will place at the end. I highly recommend waiting to listen to it until after you read, as to not  sway your imagination.

The party had been a dismal failure. As always Angeline spent more time visiting with the Mr. Whiskers, the  house cat than she did socializing with her peers. It wasn't her fault she found the cat more entertaining than the drunken party-goers. Her best friend had dragged her along but rolled her eyes and insisted on staying when Angeline warned it was time to go. Driving along route 15, her guilt gnawed. She should not have left her friend behind. College party attendees weren't known for their wise decision making skills, and her best friend was already slurring her words as she waved goodbye. Of course Angeline hadn’t had a sip, her mother would smell it on her breath like a shark smells blood.

A glance at her cell told her she had plenty of time to make it home before curfew but only enough battery power to last a few more minutes.  Knowing she'd be unable to live with herself if anything happened to her friend, Angeline decided to turn back, hoping her mother would consider her loyalty while doling out punishment. Then reality set in and she debated what tree to chose a swatch from. The long, flexible branches of the Willow which tended to sting longer, or the hard cracks that came from the oak but tended to leave marks longer.

She drowned out the nagging dread by turning up the radio, senses assaulted by an obnoxious pop station commercial telling her to "turn it up." Her ancient boat of a car required a three-point turn to reverse direction on the scarcely lit back road. She took her time with it, the last thing she wanted was to crash into the ditch. Her arms ached with the effort to turn the creaking steering wheel - this hunker was ten years too early for power steering...or power anything. She was lucky to have FM radio.

As she straightened out, she spotted a dirt road heading East that she didn't see the first time past, or ever that she could remember. Knowing so many of these roads connect to others she figured she could save herself a good twenty minutes by taking a short cut. She briefly thought about verifying with her GPS but it was more important to conserve the little battery she had left and chances were this road wouldn't be mapped anyway.

The old car bumped along. Squeaking shocks and grinding gears drowned out only by the radio and the wind blowing through her hair. A song she already heard at least four times at the party started and she rolled her eyes. As she moved her hand towards the dial to change the station the song hummed into a fit of static. She pulled her hand back and clarity returned. It wasn't the first time the rust bucket's radio played tricks. She smacked it once on top, then turned it off and back on three times all without taking her eyes off the dusty trail. That usually did the trick and sure enough the crappy pop ballad returned.

The road narrowed a bit, encompassed thickly on either side by corn fields that seemed to grow taller the further she drove. Worried that she may have accidentally turned onto private property and imaging an angry farmer barreling after her with a shot gun, she slowed down to decide what to do next. As always when she felt lost, she turned down the radio. Her hand didn't make it to the volume nob when something odd happened.

The static returned but this time so deafeningly loud her shoulders shot up to protect her ears. The white noise was overlaid on an electronic beeping; an aural cacophony equivalent to nails on chalkboard. She fumbled at the knob though it had no effect. Even smacking the console several times did nothing but cause her to swerve. Soon the shrill static relented but its replacement was far worse. The silent summer night was filled with a crackling rendition of Pop Goes the Weasel, as if played on an old record player. A song that brought her so much joy as a child blaring from the horn of an ice cream truck now haunted and sent shivers up her spine. Heavy dread scratched at her chest. The car's engine died, the lights shut off, and the car drifted to a slow clunking stop.

"No, no. Not now." Her shaking hands tried and tried but the engine wouldn't even turn.

Somehow the radio still played, glowing as though alive. The children's tune changed to a methodical beeping, somehow ancient and familiar sounding like the dusty fax machine at the library had squawked from time to time. She strained her neck to listen to the sounds that came between the beeps. Drowned out whispers, ancient chanting and humming all on top of each other. Her heart raced out of control.

Her phone! It had been tucked safely under her leg this whole time. She pulled it out and let out a loud sob as she watched the light of life flicker off. It flashed a warning sign to charge before the screen went black.

Another sob forced out of her when the noise on the radio changed yet again. A small girl’s voice, far away at first became clearer as though she walked toward Angeline. She was speaking in a harsh foreign language she recognized as German.  A few words she remembered from a class taken in high school jumped out at her. The girl was saying numbers. Over and over in a saccharin voice, jarring against the scene that surrounded. The voice repeated a seemingly random sequence of numbers for what felt like a very long time.

"Zehn. zwei. Sieben. Drei. Vier. Funf. Sechs. Acht. Neun. Eins. Neun. Vier. Zehn." On and on the young girl repeated as Angeline pulled at her hair. Just as she began clawing at the radio to rip it out, the voice stopped.

Everything around her went silent. Even the warm, summer air shifted through tall stalks of corn without making a rustle. She let out a sigh. Then she giggled at her own school girl foolishness.

Turning the key in the ignition, her engine struggled to life. It whined as it strained against an invisible force.

“Come one. Come on.”

She slammed her hand against the dashboard when nothing happened.

The voice returned, and without thinking she glanced towards the radio, only it wasn’t on. The car was little more than scrap, but the girl’s sweet voice chimed through the air. It came from beside her, through the crops. It called sweetly still reciting numbers with a purpose Angeline could never guess at.

Faster than she ever though possible she rolled up her window. The voice stopped once again. She sobbed, wishing she had never left her home in the first place, praying her mother would help her.

The silence calmed her until the sobs transformed to sporadic sniffles. She tried the car again. It turned! Miracle of miracles the engine hesitantly sputtered to life.

She put the car into gear, cheeks still wet with tears and relief relaxing her shoulders.

Then she heard the numbers again, only this time the cooed softly from the back seat.

Too terrified to turn her head, Angeline stared straight ahead as ice cold fingers brushed through her hair and tickled the base of her neck.

“Drei. Zwei. Eins.”

A stout, fat police officer surveyed Angeline’s car off route 15 the next day. The car managed to wrap itself almost completely around the thick trunk of an oak tree and reeked of alcohol. Angeline’s body was found several yards away.

"Damn these kids. Don't their parents teach them better?" His voice, gravely with pity cursed as he bent down and examined her body, knowing he'd find no pulse. In the distance the car radio finished an irritating pop ballad before silencing forever.

Creepy link taken from Reddit.

http://m.soundcloud.com/brian-rickman-1/star-interference-8-26-13

Okay, Okay it was a prank. Still creepy no?

Current Song: Natalie Merchant, “Life is Sweet”

Creepypasta

I have always been a fan of all things creepy - Urban legends, ghost stories, psychological thrillers, aside from crude violence I definitely get into to it all. (Except clowns, I DON’T DO CLOWNS.) As a kid I would devour the Scary Stories books, reading them over and over again. I specifically remember my mom often buying me other types of scary story anthologies as gifts, including some H.P. Lovecraft when I was a Freshman in high school.(Thanks mom!) I loved telling eerie tales around the campfires, I seem to remember my Uncle Paul being especially good at this. And I am always eager to learn about new Urban legends. You know, my cousin’s friend in Ohio, totally saw it happening… This week, I’m thinking do to the torrential thunderstorms we have been getting, I’ve been in an especially strong mood to be scared. It’s been a long time coming, between the scary movies we watch and short stories I write, I have been wanting something to really spook me and inspire me. (According to my BF and strongest critic I write a lot about “viscera and women who have screws loose.” Hey, at least I have a thing, but I’m ready to mix it up a bit.)

I tend to already have an active imagination, as you may have picked up on. The fact that I would chose the week my husband is out of town to get so freaking obsessed with being terrified highlights the fact that  I may have a few screws loose myself. I have been researching a lot of scary stories, and asking online for good books of horror to satisfy my craving. This morning while browsing through Reddit, I discovered something called “Creepypasta.” Because I am not up to date with a lot of online lingo I had to Google it. So if you are like me and didn’t already know, here is the def:

“Creepypasta are essentially internet horror stories, passed around on forums and other sites to disturb and frighten readers. The name "Creepypasta" comes from the word "copypasta", an internet slang term for a block of text that gets copied and pasted over and over again from website to website. Creepypastas are sometimes supplemented with pictures, audio and/or video footage related to the story, typically with gory, distorted, or otherwise shocking content.

Creepypasta varies greatly in length and quality, though many of them follow a few set formulas:

-Anecdotes. The narrator remarks on a scary legend, news story, or event from their own past.

-Rituals. A list of instructions for the reader, claiming that if they go to a certain place at a certain time, and perform specific actions, something remarkable and/or horrifying will happen.

-The Lost Episode. The narrator tells the story of a never-before-seen episode or scene from a famous TV show, typically a comedy or children's cartoon, where the audio and video is heavily distorted and characters begin acting strangely or violently, killing themselves and/or each other.”

(All of this was taken from here: http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/What_Is_Creepypasta%3F)

Let me tell you in the few short hours I have been awake I have become OBSESSED with Creepypasta. It was serendipity. One of the top voted response to “What is the scariest "creepypasta" in your opinion?” was this story called Ted’s Cave. http://www.angelfire.com/trek/caver/ Have you heard of it? I had not. I started reading it and couldn’t stop. If you have a little time, I highly recommend it.

Most of the Creepypasta legends I have read about usually end up with “people killing themselves upon watching.” To that I say pishaw! Urban legends, through word of mouth or through copy/paste are always the same. Though admittedly I think I will wait to click the links until my hubby gets back.

I can already see myself at the next social gathering asking annoying questions like “Did you hear about the video of Squiward killing himself? Or Slenderman? What’s your favorite creepypasta?”

On a side note the term Creepypasta is hilarious to me. I imagine a bowl of spaghetti with angry eyes - something very R.L. Stine - oh yeah, I read a lot of him growing up too. Don’t hate - Fear Street was da bomb yo.

Anyway, looking forward to some really weird things coming from this experience. In the meantime tell me your favorite story: real, fake, urban legend, creepypasta, WHAVEVER I want to hear it!

Current Song: “Banquet” by Bloc Party

UPDATE: How has it taken me this long to learn about this? I feel like a schmuck - there are a ton of websites dedicated to it. I'm gonna go ahead and claim that I already knew and only forgot somehow. Perhaps it was blocked...maybe I learned too much last time...